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Economists see signs of improving jobs picture

WASHINGTON (AP) - Recent statistics are producing optimism among economists about today's government report on December employment.

Weekly reports show declining layoffs and manufacturers also have reported that they've been hiring more.

John Ryding at RDQ Economics forecasts that employers added 180,000 jobs last month, a big jump from November's 120,000 net jobs. For the coming year, Economists surveyed by the Associated Press project that the economy will generate an average of 175,000 jobs per month, up from 130,000 last year.

A FactSet survey finds economists predicting that employers added a net 150,000 jobs last month, and that the unemployment rate ticked up to 8.7 percent from 8.6 percent in November, which was the lowest rate since March 2009.

Many economists forecast that growth could slow to roughly 2 percent this year.

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